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tv   Drought Forecasting  CSPAN  July 30, 2012 2:30am-4:20am EDT

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with drought impacts, and how to have better forecasts and quicker reaction by government entities. my bill -- i wanted to let them know we were concerned about what we were going through and sorry for them. there was not a heck of a lot we could do that time. the national integrated drought information system established by the act of 2006 is one such effort undertaken to answer this question. the climate program office within the center of atmospheric research, its goal is to "improve the nation's capacity to proactively manage drought risk by providing those affected with the best available information, and assess the potential impacts and better prepare for and mitigate the effects of drought." the program operates a website
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that features a range of services that are related to drought. this includes historical data on past droughts, current data and climate observations, early-warning is about emerging and potential drought, support services for managing drought, and a forum for stakeholders to discuss drought-related issues. the authorization expires the end of this year. we will receive testimony from witnesses that represent federal, state, and local governments, as well as stakeholders on the program. the national integrated drought information system reauthorization act of 2012 -- i welcome our witnesses and look forward to their testimony and now recognize ranking member johnson for her opening statement. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. this hearing is to discuss legislation to reauthorize the national integrated drought
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information system. in recent weeks, virtually every media outlet across the country has shown a map that depicts over half of the continental united states as experiencing severe drought conditions. the federal government has declared 1/3 of the nation's counties, roughly 1300 across 29 states, as federal disaster areas as a result of the drought. in my own home state of texas, over the last three years rain fall and high temperatures have conspired to wreak havoc on the economy. farmers and ranchers are bearing the brunt. that hits the pocketbook of every american. food prices go up. the damage is not limited to agriculture.
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for instance, in texas, conditions are again ripe for the kind of extreme wildfires that scarred large portions of the state last year. tourism is suffering as water levels in the lakes and rivers plummet, leaving boats stranded on dry land. communities are imposing water restrictions and exploiting more expensive water resources and technology. power plants and grid operators are taking a serious look at emergency plans for water supplies. given the potential for massive economic damage, we need to recognize drought for what it is, an extreme weather event, and design policy accordingly. unlike disasters such as tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes, droughts do not leave people scrambling for cover.
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there are no sirens or emergency evacuation plans. the onset is slow, with no defined beginning or end. the path of a drought is sprawling. it often encompasses entire regions of the country. duration is typically measured in years. as we design policies and programs to make predictions that limit the impact of the other extreme weather events, we should strengthen our capacity to do the same for drought. one tool at our disposal is the nidis program. in its six years, it has already provided important short and long term drought information that has aided committees in mitigating the impact of drought. we cannot have a comprehensive
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approach to drought research and mitigation without exploring the potential linkages with a changing global climate. while i will be the first to urge caution on jumping to conclusions about the impacts of a warming planet, i know that climatologists around the world are coming to a much better understanding of this complex relationship. we should leave the science to the scientists. to categorically deny the linkage between climate change and severe weather is irrational and irresponsible. policymakers at every level have a duty to protect public welfare, and ignoring the reality of climate change leaves us less prepared for catastrophic events. we recognize that nidis is an important step, and i commend the chairman for recognizing
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this bill, but this is only one step. i am not typically wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, but i will say that the bipartisan support for this leaves me a bit baffled. my colleagues have otherwise been relentless in trying to undermine or outright kill every other climate-related product or program. i am encouraged to see republicans recognize the vital services of nidis, and hope the other climate-related programs receive similar treatment. again, i think witnesses for joining us today and thank you, mr. chairman. i look forward to the testimony and yield back. >> thank you, ms. johnson. the gentle lady from texas yields back. if there are other members who wish to submit additional opening statements, they will be added to the record.
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at this time i would like to begin to introduce our panel of witnesses. i will introduce three and recognize representatives to introduce witnesses from their home states. my first witness is dr. roger pulwarty, director of the national integrated drought information systems and chief of the climate institution at the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. he has worked on at disaster risk reduction in the united states and other countries. he was worked with the u.s. academy of science. our third witness is jd strong, executive director of the oklahoma water resources board. under his leadership, the resources board updated the oklahoma comprehensive water
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plan -- that is a 50-year assessment designed to make meet oklahoma's future water needs. mr. strong oversees their triple-a rated $2.7 billion financial assistance program. the board works as an environmental specialist. our next witness is dr. james famiglietti -- did i do good with that? a professor and director of earth system science at the university of california, irvine. his research group uses the climate experiment satellite for remote sensing to track water availability. before joining the faculty at the university of california in
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2001, he was an assistant and associate professor in the department of geological sciences at the university of texas. glad to have you there. i now recognize representative bouchon. >> our second witness is the honorable gregory ballard, mayor of indianapolis. the city of indianapolis reelected him to a second term on november 8, 2011. in 2010, he announced an initiative to rebuild deteriorating residential streets, sidewalks, and bridges, as well as to address flooding issues for the city. this is on a successful pathway. mayor ballard has also helped lead a team that helps that this year's super bowl -- congratulations to indianapolis. based on that success, it will
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be winning, we hope, the super bowl in 2018. welcome, mayor ballard. >> thank you. i thank the gentleman from indiana. i recognize representative harris to introduce our final witness. >> thank you very much. it is my pleasure to introduce mrs. patricia langenfelder, president of the maryland farm bureau. she is a member of the maryland agricultural board. she and her husband and family operate a large grain farm in the first congressional district and raise livestock. she has hands-on experience that she will bring to our testimony. among her recognitions, she and her husband were inducted into the agricultural hall of fame in 2001. they were named mid-atlantic master farmers. they were honored by the conservation district. again, a pleasure to have her
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join us this morning. i yield back. >> thank you. thank you for the good introductions. spoken testimony is limited to five minutes, after which members of the committee will have time to ask questions. we will be liberal with your five minutes. we will be tighter with those of us up here. we are not here all day, but we are honored to have you. we thank you very much. i now recognize -- dr. pulwarty, you are recognized. >> good morning, members of the committee. i am the program director of the national integrated drought information system. it is an honor to be here today. in this testimony i will highlight our role in improving the nation's capacity for withstanding, predicting, and
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responding to drought. drought is part of the american experience, from the 13th century to the events of the twentieth century.. from 2000 to 2010, the annual average land area affected by drought was 25%. recently, over the past month, half of the country has experienced moderate or strong drought conditions. we are authorized under a public law to provide an early warning system that includes indicators of drought severity and impact reflecting regional and state differences. it is directed to do so by coordinating relevant federal research and building on existing forecast and programs. to do this task, we have four elements, all of which work together. first, coping with drought surges to assess the impact of drought and develop tools. secondly, a tool that
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accelerates scientific research to improve operational climate forecast products. thirdly, the drought portal that provides a one-stop shop for easily accessible monitoring products. the fourth element is a network of regional early-warning information systems, which recognizes that drought impacts various regions. the early warning system integrates information from the above three elements, the portal, the observations, the research, and federal and local partners. a recent example of a product for wyoming, utah, and colorado is provided as a supplement. to date, we have implemented an early-warning system, the first of its kind in the u.s., in the colorado river basin. we are working in the flood
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basin and the state of california. the approaches and tools are intended to be transferred to other regions such as the pacific northwest, the great plains, the carolinas, and the chesapeake bay tributaries. since 2006, we have improved our effectiveness by increasing the number of states and institutions with the capacity for drought risk-management. the percentage of the u.s. population covered by warning systems has increased. i will give examples of products and services and their impact. since spring of 2010, we have supported weekly updates and seminars for the upper colorado warning system, bringing together agencies from water conversation agencies and others to raise awareness of reservoir conditions and wildfire risks. our products in the colorado basin include drought indicators linking seasonal
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climate forecasts and estimates. according to the colorado state climatologist that leads the seminar in the upper asin, he says that since it was initiated, entities have refined the product into more useful products for basin- specific needs. this was long sought after by various groups. the second example comes from a southeastern city. the researchers worked with the watershed division of auburn, alabama. they then used forecasts to reduce the impact of drought. in march 2011, based on this information, the city used an update to manage water demand. the city now uses seasonal drought information and water supply planning and demand
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management on an ongoing basis. many other examples of research product development exist. as judged by our partners in the state and regional and federal offices, the research data supported by us, including during the southern drought of 2011 until 2012 -- they significantly improve planning and coordination for events prior to the legislation. our ability to meet drought information needs is strongly dependent on enabling observational capabilities. these include the usga national resources conservation services, the usgs water census under the water efforts, reservoir levels from the army corps of engineers, and the bureau of reclamation and the national water service. central research partners such as the drought mitigation center at university of nebraska, lincoln, work actively
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with u to improve operational products and improve and inform planning at every level. while drought onset is important, warning of intensity, duration, and the potential returns are critical. to achieve the truly national early-warning presence envisioned by the act, that requires improvements that we have begun to address, but for which further advances are needed. these include understanding variability and forecast reliability from a season to a year and even to a decade, including expanding the role of precipitation events in ending a drought. collaboration among resource managers and the public to enhance the value of existing observation networks, and the transfer of successful tools and approaches to areas not having early-warning systems. most critically, working with the private sector to develop value added products. key to our future success is a
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sustained national system of credible, consistent, and authoritative observations. we are grateful for the committee's continued interest. i look forward to working with you in helping the nation and all communities to take advantage of us to anticipate and reduce the impact of drought. >> i now recognize mayor ballard. >> thank you to the committee for welcoming me. i am the mayor of indianapolis, indiana, the 11th-largest city in the country. my testimony is focused on how the drought impacted the city of indianapolis, our residents, and our business community. the drought of 2012 is of historic proportions and has been compounded by extreme temperatures. the indianapolis division of
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homeland security monitored the weather using the city's emergency operations center and data from the national weather service. repeated activation of the extreme heat plan prompted them to seriously consider seriously re-evaluating the burden of risks of drought conditions. the indianapolis water utility, which operates the city's water supply, used weekly drought status updates as posted on the website to determine whether to enhance water conservation efforts when necessary in response to dry conditions. by late june, citizens had been delivering record amounts of water amidst record-breaking heat. 40% of their water load was for lawn irrigation. citizens asked customers to stop voluntarily watering lawns, resulting in a modest reduction. on july 14, i enacted mandatory water use restrictions to ensure there was adequate water
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for public safety and well- being. these included a ban on watering lawns, washing vehicles, cleaning outdoor surfaces with water, filling empty swimming pools, landscaping, and others. water was allowed only for fire suppression. in less than one week, water usage dropped an additional 58 million gallons a day. some businesses that depend on water to operate were exempted from the ban. examples included nurseries, commercial car washes, golf courses, parks, and the like. we did not have complete and comprehensive information on the impact of this drought for residents, government, or businesses, but many businesses voiced concerns over water use restrictions. these included pool companies lawn care businesses, irrigation repair companies, power washing companies, car
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dealerships that detail their own vehicles, contractors, and builders. none of these were exempted from the mandatory ban. many are small business owners who provide jobs. it will be some time before we understand the full impact of the drought on indianapolis. anecdotally, we know that the drought and soil and water restrictions placed an incredible burden on businesses that rely on water and homeowners who need water to maintain property. these have been a necessary response to a severe and serious drought that is expected to persist into the fall. the sooner indianapolis knows, the sooner indianapolis can begin planning public information to prepare our leaders and our committee for water conservation. that said, we expect the accuracy of the prediction will have to be quite high before we result in an earlier implementation. regarding the reauthorization of nidis, i certainly support more accurate drought
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prediction services. that would certainly help all of us. >> thank you. i now recognize mr. strong. >> thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss an issue of critical importance to oklahoma and other western states. that is, drought monitoring, forecasting, and coordination. in addition to coordinating state drought monitoring activities, my agency carries out numerous water-related responsibilities for the state of oklahoma, all of which are heavily influenced by drought. i testified today as director of the oklahoma water resources board. i know through my involvement and coordination with those in the western states water council and western governors association that many other western states share a similar thoughts and suggestions about
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reauthorization of the national integrated drought information system or nidis. why is drought such a challenge? unlike other natural disasters which strike suddenly and generally and within minutes or days, the effects of drought settle in slowly and steadily over months or years. it is referred to as the creeping disaster. it is often difficult to know when a drought has started, and more challenging to know when a drought will end. additionally, and partly because of its subtle onset, society falls into the hydro-illogical cycle. we ignore drought until the situation is dire. we lament the impacts and clamor for emergency funding, but invariably it rains, at which points we forget there was ever a problem. we must break this cycle. drought also means different things to different regions, and different water usage. that highlights the importance
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of focusing research and monitoring and reporting, not so much on a national scale, but on measures and predictions that are relevant to state, regional, and local and tribal stakeholders. oklahoma is no stranger to drought. some 80 years removed from the infamous dust bowl era, we are experiencing a third major drought episode within six short years. every year, up 25% or more of the state is classified in a severe drought category. my agency and the water development board in texas were created in 1957 on the heels of what was the worst drought of record on the great plains. we have come far in oklahoma in understanding and mitigating drought impact. we have developed advanced
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tools utilize in real time information on precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, and many other parameters. augmenting this essential data and research conducted at the national weather center is streamflow information collected by the usgs program, the corps of engineers reservoir gauges, and otherd the geimaging, sources. oklahoma remains a vulnerable to the vagaries of drought. reducing the impact requires improved insights into this disaster. that is the goal of the still relatively new program. thanks to the foresight and resolve of congress, and with much input and assistance from organizations like the western governors organization, the program was launched in 2006.
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it was greeted to focus research on events in our predictive capability is well-established in a communication mike between the scientific committee and those most affected by drought. what has it accomplished? improved communication and outlooks. in beijing with local, state, tribal, and federal offices. it has established a more affective modern network. stakeholder involvement was nonexistent before. in oklahoma, it has a strong presence. funding the program provides the planned program, one of the regional integrated teams. information has made my agency posted job much easier in providing continuous updates. allow us to focus our attention
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and assistance on regions of the states that when tightened effort. it provides the seasonal drop outlook from the prediction center and hydrological forecast from the forecast center. while it has been marts' this successful, much work remains. including more mature and tools and predictions. integration of drought preparedness and response. we await the development of an early-warning system for our area, which is a key goal of the system. specific to the legislation, we appreciate the chairman's sponsorship of the reauthorization and applaud this committee for giving it consideration. specifically, i would urge the committee to have language focusing on the components that are still lacking full implementation. perhaps including a firm requirement for development of
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early warning systems. in closing, drought is a real and present danger that affects this nation to the tune of billions of dollars and countless lives every year. as my congressman frank lucas, who is chairing a committee meeting, can attest, the disastrous -- it is mammoth compared to the minute sums spent on reporting. they should be well-informed. we can ill afford to step backwards when dealing with what is the nation's most menacing and costly natural disaster. we need to take the next up forward by building on the fundamental work accomplished since 2006 to establish the most valuable project of this endeavor. an early warning system that can save money and lives. even incremental apartments --
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improvements, on a seasonal to one year scale, would be extraordinarily beneficial and establishing contingencies and informed decisions made by water managers, farmers, energy producers, and countless others. i respectfully urge the reauthorization, with emphasis on those components not fully authorization, along with necessary funding. thank you. >> thank you. i now recognize the doctor for five minutes to present his testimony. >> chairman hall, other members, thank you for the opportunity. i am a hydrologist and professor at the university of california, irvine, and formerly at the university of texas. drought is an insidious killer
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of food and field crops, livestock, flora, fauna, and humans. it has emerged as a major threat to our food, health, economic, and water security. these on they be at greater risk in the coming decades. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012]
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